Yet another Uyghur asylum seeker died in the custody of Thai authorities. Uyghurs all over the world mobilized to protest.
by Gulfiye Y
On May 5 and 6, 2023, protests and demonstrations in front of Thailand’s embassies and consulates were set off by the death of yet another Uyghur refugee in the custody of Thai authorities. The protests were held in Washington DC, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and Munich.
“Muhammet Tursun [also spelled Mattohti Mattursun], Aziz Abdullah, in just the past 2 months … rotting in Bangkok detention center… these two men have passed away. [ ] Every day I wake up and I am reminded that my existence, my identity is a crime…” said a young protester in a video.
Uyghurs demonstrated and protested against the Thai government on behalf of the incarcerated Uyghur refugees held within Thailand in “immigration detention centers” since 2014—for nine years.
A second Uyghur has died this year while in custody, following three earlier deaths at the same facility. About fifty Uyghurs remain there. It is long past the time to end the pain of their uncertainty. If returned to China, they will be delivered into the hands of their persecutors. Their fear of the Chinese government is palpable. We ask the Thai authorities to act with humanity and release these innocent people who are merely seeking safe haven.
Much has been written about the travails of this group of refugees that has now lasted for nine years. What began with 370 refugees continues now with about fifty who are still held in deplorable conditions, with the prospect of a most dire future.
The Thai authorities will not release the refugees to any of the several countries willing to take them in—and are holding them on the demand of China. The international uproar about the 109 sent early on from Thailand to China was intense, with the images of the hooded men flanked on both sides with guards and being manhandled onto the planes. Their future was on full display—and, not surprisingly, their present whereabouts remain unknown.
There is no rational, logical, or lawful reason (to the international community at least) to hold these so-called “illegal migrants” (in fact, refugees) for nine years. These refugees were transiting Thailand with no intention to stay, but were stopped and arrested just at the exit border with Malaysia. China’s demand to arrest these people was based on extremely vague and undefined changes to be determined later. It was only alleged that they had “violated relevant Chinese laws.”
The Chinese demand to get these people back demonstrates a singlemindedness, an obsession with the “Strike Hard” program, and a show of absolute force in the “war on terror”: an unrelenting persecution where international borders and norms are irrelevant. This is the “rule of law with Chinese characteristics.”
Thailand is a state party to the 1984 Convention Against Torture, which forbids governments from returning people to situations where they may be tortured. Chinese assurances of fair treatment must be assessed against Chinese “rule of law with Chinese characteristics” as enforced in practice, where being a Uyghur is enough to be sent to jail and torture happens routinely.
The protesters called upon the Thai government to stand on the right side of history and to behave with honor. This insanity must end.